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The Early Years of the RAF: A cautionary tale of history in the making

15 February 2018

In the first of our Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies for 2018, Sophy Gardner will speak on ‘The early years of the RAF: A cautionary tale of history in the making’. 

A group of unidentified RAF Officers 1918



Today the RAF has a history. An element of the contemporary RAF’s challenge is to innovate, while grappling with the legacy of one hundred years of existence and experience. In 1918 it did not have a history and this may well have been one of its most significant advantages. The newly-created RAF had to fight not only for its survival but to create a culture and sustainable pedigree with very little legacy. In this lecture, Sophy Gardner will explore the nature of this advantage to the RAF in its early years, in the context of the other Services’ responses to its creation and the very specific challenges of the post-war period. 

The RAF’s leadership understood the important symbolism of air power and aviation as representative of modernity and the future, with both positive and negative connotations. However, they also appreciated that a military culture, even one based on a modern military concept, needed to create traditions and a status which allowed it to secure a place within the Establishment. 

The lecture will use archival research to examine the RAF’s negotiation of the temporal dimension in its earliest years and discuss the inherent value in the relative youth of the RAF, and why that might provide a cautionary note to the Service as it faces its second century.


This lecture will be held at the Headquarters of the Royal Aeronautical Society at No. 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ at 18:30PM on Thursday 15 February 2018.

This lecture is free of charge however we do ask that you pre-book a free ticket as seats are limited. Booking is quick and easy:




Sophy Gardner is a collaborative doctoral award student and researches the early politics of the RAF and air power. Based at the Department of History at the University of Exeter, she is in the second year of a PhD studentship collaborative with the RAF Museum. Her research has its origins in the private papers of John Moore-Brabazon, later first Baron Brabazon of Tara, an aviation pioneer and Conservative politician, which are held at the RAF Museum. Prior to returning to university, Sophy served for twenty years in the RAF including on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, on a tour with the Royal Navy on HMS Invincible, and at MOD. She is a Trustee of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.


The Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies forms a part of the RAF Museum’s Research Programme for 2018. This programme consists of the First World War in the Air Lunchtime Lecture, Cold War Lunchtime Lectures at our Cosford site and other events such as conferences. For further details about the RAF Museum’s Research Programme please contact

The Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies are held in conjunction with the Royal Aeronautical Society and the War Studies Department at the University of Wolverhampton.

Please note that lectures are subject to change.

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